Head of Amundi ETF, Indexing & Smart Beta, Member of Amundi Group Executive Committee
Fannie Wurtz is a Member of Amundi Group’s Executive Committee, and the Head of Amundi ETF, Indexing & Smart Beta, a strategic business area with more than €114bn€ in assets under management. Fannie recently sat down with Jobs in ETFs to discuss a range of topics including Amundi ETF development plans, how women communicate ambitions differently compared with men, her average day and challenges for the ETF industry.
“The ETF business is very dynamic and very technical, so people starting out should try and understand this…”
Jobs in ETFs (JIE): Can you explain briefly how you started in ETFs
Fannie Wurtz (FW): I have always had a passion for numbers and as a child I knew I would work with numbers, then when I got older I knew I would work in finance. The asset management industry is a long-term industry and an investment journey.
I started working on the active side and then joined Amundi in 2008 when they approached me about setting up an ETF business. It was a good time for me to move as I was ready to do something entrepreneurial, but it was a difficult time to join as the recession hit. I remember being on gardening leave wondering if there would be a job at the end of it.
When I started it was small, there were only a handful of us working in the ETF business – 11 years later we are much bigger, global and the ETF industry has evolved and grown too. These changes are now accelerating as investors want more and better solutions. Our job now is to find individual solutions for our clients – very different to before 2008 when Lehman crashed. Now investors understand and want to know how products work, the risk, and so on. Investing had to be redefined.
Starting in sales at Amundi was a good role for me, I was able to work across Europe and Asia and see that one size did not fit all. We work with retail and institutional investors across over 30 countries who have different needs.
JIE: Has being a woman in the ETF industry had any negative or positive impact at all?
FW: It’s not necessarily easier or harder,. However, as women, we often communicate differently and we definitely communicate our ambitions differently compared with men.
As an example, I had a team member who came to me to say she hoped to get to manager level in three years time. I asked her if she meant ‘hoped’ or ‘wanted’. It was the difference between openly wanting it and asking for it, and being apologetic about it. This is something that still very much exists for women in the workplace and should be eradicated. It’s OK to want to be ambitious and go for what you want.
Amundi is a diverse company, convinced that ensuring everybody’s integration, revealing talents and promoting all employees, in all their diversity, is a strength for its development. Working for Amundi has been brilliant as a woman. If you look at the executive committee, Amundi is above industry practice and on the board of directors 40% are women. I see myself as a good example of their willingness to promote women.
I believe strongly that having a diverse team actually helps the business and makes decision making process much more powerful.
JIE: What has been the most challenging moment of your ETF career?
FW: The most challenging part of it so far was the launch period. We launched during the Lehman crisis so timing could have been better. The challenge was related to market conditions rather than anything to do with the business.
But, there were opportunities and we set ourselves up so that we were able to survive. 11 years later – despite industry participants coming and going – we have been a constant during that time.
JIE: Amundi ETF, Indexing and Smart Beta wants to double its AUM, how do you go about doing this and how key is hiring?
FW: Amundi ETF has always grown faster than the market. We have good products, we are a super solid company and investors have confidence in all those aspects.
We are breaking into new markets, our recent product listing in Mexico is an example. We are broadening our offering, launching the Prime range recently, simple ETFs focused on the retail market, costing no more than 5bps.
It’s all about continuing to invest in the business and building it out globally.
We are growing the team at the moment having taken on sales side hires in the German office, the UK and Spain. We are also strengthening the marketing side by hiring there. It’s important that the sales force is supported by the product development, we are seeing more and more demand for UCITS products around the globe.
The aim is to offer the best case solutions for the clients. Again, part of this is creating the solution and to this end we have hired specialists in various areas including quant, AI and ESG.
JIE: What is your average day like?
FW: I usually start at work at around 7.30. From there I deal with my emails and will answer anything that came in the night before. I think that answering in the morning means you have a clear head.
I then have an hour that is always free between 8-9 when anyone in my team can come and talk to me.
After this, I will spend about 50% of my day focusing on strategy and implementing it. The other half of my time will be following up its execution and managing the team . It’s all very well having great ideas and strategy, but if you can’t implement them, you are going nowhere. I also continue to do client meetings, as it is important to stay close to their needs.
My only problem is switching off, I think about work 24/7 pretty much and trying not to do that all the time is a challenge.
JIE: What advice would you give your younger self?
FW: To constantly challenge yourself and never take anything for granted.
Everyone can be successful if they put their mind to it. You just have to find the fighter in yourself, and for me I don’t mind saying this took time.
I find as a boss that allowing someone to progress and encourage them yields amazing results and giving them a clear path means you end up with a brilliant team.
JIE: What advice would you give anyone starting in the ETF industry?
FW: The ETF business is very dynamic and it’s very technical, so people starting out should try and understand this. It’s also a great place for young people to start because it’s so challenging and innovative.
In ETFs you need to be really active, network, be ahead of the industry and find the right provider to start with that suits your skill sets.
JIE: How do you achieve work-life balance?
FW: I have two children and am happily married. It’s not easy and I don’t think it can be perfect, but we have a good set up and central to that is that I have a husband who I am able to work with as a team. He encourages my career alongside his own. We have a good balance – he takes the load when he can and I take it when I can.
We try not to travel at the same time, so that it means one parent is at home for the children.
I also try to set aside dedicated time with them every day and then at weekends. This time has to be quality time and it seems to work for us.
JIE: Do Amundi support work life balance?
FW: Yes, very much so. I was lucky to have a very understanding management team.
We had for example very transparent conversations when it came to my maternity leave. I was then global head of sales for Europe and Asia and we agreed limits on the amount of travel I did – we found the right balance and both sides were flexible.
Ultimately it’s all about trust and communication. If these channels are open then you can come up with the best solutions for all.
JIE: What is the greatest challenge for the ETF industry?
FW: Europe is undergoing significant acceleration in the ETF space. The challenge now is to ensure that the product is delivering what the client wants.
We can work on price improvement where possible, but as we know, nothing is free in life. We have a duty to educate investors and enable client demands for solutions. It means we have to sell the right product to the right clients.
The ETF wrapper is growing around the globe and we need to make sure quality isn’t compromised.